Fish of The Ohio River
The historic Ohio River runs 981 miles to its mouth of the Mississippi River from western Pennsylvania. On its way, it creates a natural border for Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.
Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying:
"The Ohio is the most beautiful river on earth. Its current gentle, waters clear, and bosom smooth and unbroken by rocks and rapids, a single instance only excepted."
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), these are some of the fish you can expect to find in these great waters.
Largemouth Bass move into creeks and embayments to spawn in the early spring, around the time water temperatures rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once water temperatures rise in the warmer months, you're more likely to see them in deeper backwaters, rather than the shallows.
Jigs, crankbaits, and classic worms are generally the best baits for Largemouth fishing.
Smallmouth can generally be found throughout the entirety of the Ohio River. They love crayfish, so are normally not far from the rocky tailwaters and rock substrates where the crayfish live.
If you're in deeper waters looking for Smallmouth, try crankbaits and 1/8 to 3/8 ounce jigs with black or brown bodies. You can also tip the jigs with a minnow to draw more attention to your line.
As the water warms around rocky areas, try lighter-colored spinnerbaits. Lighter-colored buzz baits and noisy surface plugs are a good option for noisy, rocky shorelines. However, you can always go with a classic minnow on a hook and bobber around 4-5 feet beneath the surface of the water.
Sauger & Walleye
Sauger and Walleye are found in more tailwater areas in the spring, disperse in the summer, then make their way into streams and back to tailwaters in the fall and winter months.
Although they are different fish, they can usually be caught using the same methods.
When fishing the Ohio River for Sauger and Walleye, you'll likely have the most luck in the cooler months. Keep in mind they move into more shallow waters at sundown.
1/8 to 3/8 ounce jigs with white or chartreuse twister tails are great when fishing the bottom. Adding a minnow to your jig is also recommended.
When they make their way to shallow waters, try jigging spoons or vibrating blade lures.
White, Striped, & Hybrid Striped Bass.
This grouping of Bass is one of the most abundant sport fish groups in the Ohio River.
They like highly oxygenated water, so seeing them below dams or in quiet water areas adjacent to fast-moving water is common.
Bass are known to strike at jigs on the surface, but you can also find luck fishing the bottom with live bait, liver, or cut bait.
Channel, Flathead, & Blue Catfish
These catfish are widely distributed throughout the Ohio River. The only exception is the Blue Catfish which are rare to see in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia portions of the river.
One of the fun things about fishing for a "cat" is the spread of weights you can catch them in. For example, 15 pounds is quite common for Channel Catfish. Flatheads have a norm of 20 to 30 pounds but can reach 100 pounds.
If the water is above 50 degrees, you're likely to find some Catfish, with May through July during the night being your best bet.
Gizzard Shads, 2-ounce jigs, and cut-bait are good for targeting a Catfish. However, it is not uncommon to catch a Channel Catfish on a crankbait intended for another fish. Heavy tackle fishing the bottoms is a normal go-to method.